From our friends and colleagues, a list of the most exciting exhibitions on view right now around the globe.
In a special installment of The Radar—a recurring feature in Ursula of uncommon cultural recommendations from across the world—we asked a group of several curators, writers and editors to tell us what shows have piqued their interest the most this season and why. Covering exhibitions from Hong Kong to Switzerland, Paris to Los Angeles, Milan to Philadelphia, their recommendations offer a sampling of the most exciting exhibitions to see wherever your summer holidays might take you—even if it’s not far from home.
Giorgia von Albertini ‘Kara Walker: A Black Hole is Everything a Star Longs to Be,’ Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, 5 June – 26 September 2021 Surveying American history from slavery to Barack Obama’s presidency, the trailblazing artist Kara Walker has no patience for political correctness and does not propose a conciliatory view of the past, instead prodding the viewer to question established narratives and entrenched myths. In her first extensive solo exhibition in Switzerland, curated by Dr. Anita Haldemann, Walker presents more than 600 drawings from her personal archive, which she has closely guarded for the past 28 years. After seeing ‘Fons Americanus,’ a monumental sculptural allegory of the Black Atlantic in Tate’s Turbine Hall last year, I am beyond excited to see this substantial exhibition of Walker’s works on paper.
‘Matthew Angelo Harrison: Proto,’ Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 4 June – 26 September 2021 At Kunsthalle Basel, Detroit-born artist Matthew Angelo Harrison is showcasing sculptures for which he encased wooden African effigies, ceremonial masks, as well as safety helmets and working gloves in polished blocks of transparent resin. Using industrial manufacturing techniques to transmute matter, Angelo Harrison explores ancestry, authenticity, and the relationship between African and African-American culture with stunning sculptural precision. Showcasing all new work, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe, curated by Elena Filipovic, is a must-see.
‘Carte Blanche’ to Anne Imhof, Natures Mortes,’ Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 22 May – 24 October 2021 After her consecration at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where her exhibition and performance ‘Faust’ was awarded the Golden Lion, Anne Imhof takes hold of the entirety of the Palais de Tokyo in a commission by Emma Lavigne and Vittoria Matarrese. Removing the building’s temporary scenography to reveal the raw concrete of its primary structure, and subsequently inserting a glass maze, Imhof has created all-embracing, polyphonic work. Fusing her own works with historical works by David Hammons, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, and many more, as well as those of accomplices such as Eliza Douglas, Imhof presents her own history of art within a matrix that becomes a total work of art.
Laura Hoptman ‘Maurizio Cattelan: Breath Ghosts Blind,’ Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 15 July 2021 – 20 February 2022 A siting of a new work by the ultimate trickster of the contemporary art world, Maurizio Cattelan is, in my opinion, always an occasion. Cattelan is famously unprolific and this show promises to feature quite a number of these occasions. A hilariously high-minded press release promises both a ‘site-specific installation,’ as well as a series of new works that taken together can be experienced as ‘a series of acts dealing with existential concepts and issues such as the fragility of life, memory, (and)… the collective senses (sic) of loss.’ Indeed.
‘Kara Walker: A Black Hole is Everything a Star Longs to Be,’ Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, 5 June – 26 September 2021 Walker is the quintessential American artist. Best known for her use of the American antebellum craft medium of silhouette paper cutting, her subject matter also springs from an uniquely American experience: slavery and its aftermath. Walker’s works tell antic and epic stories of both violent and strangely joyous miscegenation, mixing old-timey and contemporary imagery. This retrospective is the first for Walker since the collaboration between the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, more than a decade ago. I’m excited to see a European take on this material and am also relishing the visual bath of great draftsmanship that a Walker show always delivers.
‘Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,’ Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA, 17 September – 30 December 2021 Jenkins is primarily a performance and video artist who was an active part of the Black Arts Movement in Los Angeles in the 1970s, often collaborating with artists like Senga Nengudi and David Hammons. This timely look at Jenkins’ contributions follows the magisterial Nengudi retrospective that is on view through the end of July at The Philadelphia Museum, and ‘You’ve Come a Long Way Baby: The Sapphire Show,’ a recreation of a pivotal Black Arts Movement exhibition on view at Ortuzar Projects in New York through 31 July. It also presages an exhibition focusing on the work of the filmmaker and impresario Linda Goode Bryant that will open at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2022.
Essence Harden ‘Enunciated Life,’ California African American Museum, Los Angeles, 27 March – 15 August 2021 This is Taylor Renee Aldridge’s first exhibition as the new visual arts curator for CAAM, and it’s truly a stellar beginning. This group exhibition considers the Black Pentecostal tradition, in particular, breath, as a faculty of Black transference, reverie and, of course, life. Shikeith’s ‘Sermon for a Longing in Blue’ (2020), Ashton T. Crawley’s mixed media works ‘Dancing in One Spot (number 6)’ and ‘Dancing Number 8’ (both 2017), and JaTovia Gary’s ‘An Ecstatic Experience’ (2015) are four works that journey you through those vestiges of life and are dutiful anchors within the show.
‘Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism,’ Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, 7 August 2021 – 27 February 2022 After a year-long delay, ‘Mothership’ is opening at the Oakland Museum of California. Curated by Rhonda Pagnozzi—I served as the consulting curator—the group exhibition is framed via black feminist theory/praxis and grapples with a range of visual, academic, and everyday acts of Black pleasure, critique, and liberation, with an overall focus on California. I’m excited to rest beneath the recreation of Parliament Funkadelic Mothership, to be enraptured by Rashaad Newsome’s collages and installation, and to view Sandra Bean’s family videos from 1930s and ’40s Oakland. These, and the entirety of the exhibition, continue the practice of collapsing time, medium, and aesthetics to forward that Black people are indeed in the future (and of our past) that Afrofuturism has consistently affirmed.
Lauren Mackler ‘Aria Dean: Suite!,’ REDCAT, Los Angeles, 5 June – 24 October 2021 A powerful, newly commissioned work under the nascent tenure of João Ribas, this large and disorienting installation elegantly coalesces the artist’s intellectual rigor, writing chops, and capacity to transform ideas into experience through non-narrative philosophical sound bites (‘Do you know what lies at the bottom of the mainstream?’) and anthropomorphized kudzu plants choreographed in a haunting and ritualistic ‘Susperia’-summoning dance.
‘Mariah Garnett: A Heart of Opal Fire,’ Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, 10 July – 7 August 2021 A new work by an indefatigably brilliant filmmaker at the beloved Commonwealth and Council space is enticing enough, but this new work also channels the artist’s great aunt’s unfinished opera, pulled from her diaries and manifested here by a cast of both human and AI performers. Described as a ‘freely perverse’ adaptation, the film (‘The Pow’r Of Life Is Love’) highlights the artist’s unique ability to utilize real histories, often personal and familial ones, to create uncanny, transcendent works. Starring soprano Breanna Sinclairé and Christopher Paul Craig.
‘July Screen’ series, Now Instant, Los Angeles, ongoing The LA-based, artist-run art house theater shuttered its Northeast LA brick and mortar last year but continues to offer programs through a virtual screen space and a monthly series of compelling collaborations. July’s program features film/video presentations by a mélange of artists, collectives, gallery projects, and publishing endeavors (such as the new ‘November Magazine’). ‘The Going Away Present,’ Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles, 24 July – 21 August 2021 ‘The Going Away Present,’ organized by Kristina Kite and Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, is a group show, a zine, and a scent crafted as a going away gift to writer and educator Bruce Hailey, who is leaving Los Angeles after an influential 25-year residency. The project involves a long list of friends, former students, and collaborators—Dennis Cooper, Kelly Akashi, Trisha Donnelly, Hedi El Kholti, Wayne Koestenbaum, Mona Varichon and Laura Owens, to name a few—and reads as a tender letter to an inspiring figure and a testament to his imprint on the city.
‘Gabriela Ruiz: Grounding, Prevent from Flying,’ LaPau Gallery, Los Angeles, 10 July – 14 August 2021 ‘Nazari Knibbe: Cahoots,’ Gattopardo, Los Angeles, 22 May – 1 August 2021 In its ever-changing landscape of new spaces, there is always an abundance of shows to list in LA. My two final recommendations are for new endeavors and their ambitious inaugural projects: Gabriela Ruiz’s immersive exhibition at the recently opened LaPau Gallery in K-Town and ‘Cahoots’ by duo Nazari Knibbe at Gattopardo in Cypress Park. The latter is a show of quirky plant-like sculptures, mostly sprouting out of the cement floor in a strip mall storefront, punctuated with stellar titles such as ‘church giggles’ and ‘standing quotes.’